Have you ever been the recipient of fake appreciation?
We probably all have at one time or another. Fake appreciation is discouraging, and most times it's worse than no appreciation at all. Sometimes the leaders' intentions are good, but their efforts fall short. Here are a few all-too-common examples:
Two Scoops of Motivation
If your only strategic response to a big win or to boost morale is to have all the top execs serve ice cream to rank-and-file employees, you've missed the mark. Many find it patronizing and belittling; it's too trite following a big win, and too shallow for boosting morale in challenging times.
Your employees are not toddlers; ice cream will not enhance their long-term job satisfaction (neither will burgers, hot dogs, pizza or having your car washed by the CFO). This type of motivation will last about as long as a hot fudge sundae on a 100-degree day.
This goes back to the adage that if everything is important, nothing is. When we treat every small accomplishment like it's the most fantastic, amazing, wonderful thing our employees have ever done, our appreciation loses its meaning. When our employees do something that deserves special recognition, our genuine appreciation is lost in a sea of past exaggerated excitement.
Trinkets and Other Dust Collectors
There's nothing wrong with giveaways or gifts made to mark a special occasion or accomplishment. Just know that the appreciation doesn't reside in the medallion/plaque/trophy. That knick-knack is a representation of something bigger - your authentic gratefulness for what they've done. Find a way to customize one-size-fits-all recognition programs with a handwritten note or heartfelt email highlighting their accomplishment and expressing your thankfulness for their efforts.
So, what kind of appreciation do employees find valuable?
In the past year, I've had the opportunity to be part of many employee discussions on this topic. From blue collar to white collar, what employees want isn't that different.
- Say thank you. They want you to take notice when they go the extra mile, and they want you to say thank you for it.
- Appreciation is the culmination of many things. Employees feel appreciated when you are honest and considerate and when you put their needs before your own.
- Work environment trumps pay. Employees will leave a job for the same or even slightly lower pay for a better work environment where they feel they will be valued.
- At some point, money does matter. Employers who truly value their workers must be willing to pay a reasonable market wage for the industry and location.